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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

What is better than sinking into a cosy blanket with an interesting novel on cold wintry days? Well, I believe nothing like that :-)! I finished reading another interesting novel, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'. By the name of it, I was under an impression that some magic and occult practises might be involved in the story. But, I was wrong.

" The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson is a sensational thrilling and a complex crime novel that deals largely with a murder mystery, financial fraud, sexual abuse of women and the darker aspects of the life of the privileged echelon in the society. This is the author's first novel of his 'Millennium Trilogy'. Stieg Larsson was a Swedish Journalist and one of the world's leading experts on anti democratic, right wing extremist and Nazi Organisations. He had died unexpectedly in 2004 soon after delivering the manuscripts for three crime novels - The Millennium Trilogy to his publisher. All of them have been posthumous best sellers and have been made into movies.

The novel story has roughly 3 plots of story entwining intricately and culminating into a spelling binding saga. The story starts with the octogenarian industrialist - Henrik Vanger, head of Vanger Corporation - currently run by his great nephew Martin Vanger, receiving a frame of pressed flowers on his 82nd birthday. It had been a ritual receiving them for the past 40 years on his birthday. He had received it from his grand daughter 'Harriet' for the first time. The later year Harriet had disappeared mysterious without a trace and all the following years he had received the frame of pressed flowers from some anonymous sender. It intrigued him and tormented him. He had spent his life trying to discover what had happened to Harriet and was obsessed with it. He believed someone in the family had murdered her.

In the second plot, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, partner in the publishing firm, 'Millennium' loses a libel case against Billionaire Industrialist, Hans Erik Wennerstrom. Mikael is sentenced to 3 months jail and fined with a huge penalty. Faced with prison sentence and a professional disgrace he chooses to take a break in his career and decides to resign from the magazines board. His decision is met with resistance from his other partner-Erika Berger, his long time friend, confidant and occasional lover. Dismissing all disapproval, he stands by his own decision which he thinks is good for him and for the magazine's survival.

The third plot is about, Lisbeth Salander- the girl with the dragon tattoo, who is a security specialist at Milton Security. She is an ingenious hacker and uses her skills in her assignments at Milton Security. She has a disturbed past and that has followed her all her life. She is introvert, has a bad temper and keeps her life largely to herself. She is given the assignment to dig into Mikael Blomvist's life by Vanger's long time friend and faithful lawyer, Frode.

Mikael is summoned by Vanger to his house in Hedeby. Very inquisitively, he visits him and is offered a rather unusual assignment. Vanger asks him to officially write a book on Vanger family but his real assignment would be to dig into Harriet's case and possibly find out what happened to her in a year time. He promised him a huge financial reward and a solid evidence against Wennerstorm that would help him fight back in the court. Mikael agrees to do the task.

Mikael delves deep into the Vanger's past to uncover the truth behind the Harriet's disappearance. He begins analyzing the information compiled by Henrik Vanger for over 40 years. He carries both real and official assignments simultaneously. The Vanger family is one large family with lots of relations and Mikael also find it hard to remember who is who for the first few days. After months of futile hard work, Mikael makes some advancement and finally sees a ray of hope. At this stage he requires a research assistant to help him. Frode suggests Salander's name and eventually she is involved in the investigation.

They make some serious progress in the investigation to find out that there is someone who does not want the past to be revealed. Facing all deterrence, they continue to find out one of the most dark secret of the Vanger family and the mystery into Harriet's disappearance in a very dramatic way. Finally, he cracks the Harriet's mystery only to find out that Henrik's promise of a solid evidence against Wennerstorm had been mostly a bluff to lure him take this assignment. On top of that Henrik requests him not to publish the dark secrets of his family, he has come to know out of Harriet's case investigation. As a journalist, he is in a great dilemma and gives in to it.

Lisbeth comes up with the idea of helping with evidence against Wennerstorm and together they work out a plan to expose Wennerstorm and save Millennium from collapsing.

The story in the novel after Harriet's case breakthrough becomes monotonous. The author in his childhood had been witness of child abuse and sexual assault and that has a lot of influence in the story line. The story offers a very ugly view of human nature and in particular how Swedish men treat Swedish women. The actual title of this novel in Swedish was' Men who hate women', which to me seems more apt rather than this one. Most of the part of the novel had been about Harriet and the title does not seem to do justice to the content of the story. The character of Mikael also seem to fall for any woman in its way. May be the writer is trying to portray another Swedish man. Overall, the story begins on an exciting and high note, carries it to a considerable length and then suddenly falters. None the less, it is an interesting novel with a gripping plot and deeply intriguing and varied characters. Can surely give it a read.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I just finished reading 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown. I borrowed it from the local library and it was sitting in my book shelf for quite a time. I do not know why but somehow I was not really in a mood to read any novel. But, because of the bad weather these days, I was staying indoors most of the time. So, finally I started to read it a week back and its over now. I found the first half of the book more entertaining than the end half. Somehow, I was a bit disappointed with the way it ended. No doubt, this novel is yet another thrilling masterpiece that takes you into the world of secrets societies, ancient mysteries, symbols,conspiracies and unseen truth. Those who have already read Brown's Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, will find that the story is set in the same fashion as in these books. So, its seems a bit monotonous at times.

The whole story is set in Washington D.C where Robert Langdon comes on an invitation from his mentor to deliver a lecture in the Capitol Building. The story in the novel revolves around Freemasonry and its secrets that are imbibed in the architecture of the city has a couple of prominent characters namely Langdon, Peter Solomon, Katherine Solomon-Peter's Sister, Malakh - the villain in the story, CIA director Sato, Warren Bellamy-the architect of the Capitol Building, a mason and Peter's trusted friend. The story moves very fast paced and there are surprises at short intervals. Soon after Langdon has arrived at the Capitol Building, he discovers that he has been tricked into coming to D.C. He receives a call from Malakh who tells him that it was all his idea and that Peter is his captive at the moment. He tells him to do what he wants or else Peter's life is at stake.

The night takes another bizarre turn when a hand gruesomely encoded with five symbols appears in the Capitol building and Langdon recognises it to be of Peter. The encoded hand symbolises an invitation meant to usher its recipient into the world of long lost ancient esoteric wisdom. Langdon realises that his only hope of saving his friend's life is to accept the invitation and follow it where ever it leads him. Director of CIA, Sato takes control of the scene and urges that there is a matter of national security threat in which she needs Langdon's co-operation. Langdon is apprehensive about Sato's motives but still he follows her instruction and decodes the mysterious hand and lands up in a place to find an ancient masonic masterpiece which can unveil enormous power to the worthy. At this point, Warren Bellamy who wants to guard the ancient secret , saves Langdon from Sato's hand.
Langdon saves Katherine Solomon who is a neotic scientist from the clutches of Malakh and she joins Langdon in unveiling the ancient secret which she believes is the only way she can save her brother. The story then takes several twists and turns before the final revelation of ancient secret, which does not seem to be a very surprising secret.

The last half of the book is filled with too much of technical details of symbolism that its seems difficult to engulf at one moment. The mystery looses its charm and hence its disappointing at the end.
What I would say, if you are planning a visit to Washington D.C then surely read it and take a copy of it with you. The visit will be more enlightening. Surely enough, after reading the book I did give a good look to the one Dollar bill & The American Seal and in future if I read about George Washington, I will study a bit deeply. You might want to know the reason, then surely you have to do the same thing as I did. Go and grab a copy of the book from the library or if you a die hard fan of Brown, buy yourself a copy.
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